Krusada: Road Rehabilitation and DPWH

Posted at 05/18/12 6:13 PM

Broadcast journalist Henry Omaga-Diaz looked into the alleged anomalous road rehabilitation projects in Metro Manila and nearby provinces of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

DPWH yearly road repairs raise questions on the quality of road
projects and possible government corruption.
Photo by Nathalie Blanco

DPWH is often accused of building roads that are substandard and structurally weak. In effect, road accidents due to bad road conditions from January to September last year soared to 11,414 cases.

According to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Highway Patrol Group, 1,072 incidents from the total count was caused by substandard roads.

But why do we have poor-quality roads in the first place? Are the people’s taxes insufficient to build quality road infrastructures?

In this episode of Krusada, Henry Omaga-Diaz looked into the alleged anomalous road rehabilitation projects in Metro Manila and nearby provinces of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

“These roads are funded by people’s taxes, not by a politician’s. If the government wants to get rid of corruption, it should push for transparency and accountability in carrying out these projects,” Henry said.

Road problems in Quezon

Henry travelled the streets of Manila to Lucena and San Andres, Quezon together with Alberto Baron, a bus driver and concerned citizen who has been on the job for four decades now.

Alberto or “Tata Bert” said that traffic in Lucena, especially during the rainy season, can be so heavy they could sleep while waiting for it to ease.

Tata Bert drives 400 kilometres back and forth everyday. Because he has been driving since 1973, he has witnessed all the changes done to the roads.
“To be fair, it has changed a lot because here at Mount Peninsula, roads have already been cemented. But between San Andres and San Narciso, there’s still more or less nine kilometres of rough roads,” he said.

To answer, Quezon Province District Engineer Rogelio Rejano said that cementing the nine-kilometer stretch is yet to be funded.

But the problem did not end after roads have been paved. The length and quality of road projects is now in question.

“Some roads crack. We think it’s because of what we call quicksand. Even if they use cement, it will still sink in less than a year”, he added.

Residents of San Andres, Quezon assert that it is all right for them to be patient as long as rehabilitation projects would truly fix their roads. But they also stress that for so long, DPWH would constantly repair the supposedly patched-up roads every year.

Corruption in DPWH?

“The country’s road problems are caused by the corruption in the government”, said University of the Philippines Professor Leonor Briones, expert in Public Administration and Governance.

In a survey conducted by Pulse Asia, DPWH has been dubbed as third of the most corrupt offices in the government.

“First, the projects are big. Second, it’s easy for the contractor and the agency to have collusion due to the length of process. In buying materials, it can be overpriced. Also, projects can be extended so the cost could increase,” Briones added.

Other major controversies involving DPWH in corruption are allegedly misusing the road maintenance fee collected directly by the Land Transportation Office (LTO) from the Motor Vehicle User’s Charge (MVUC) and allowing companies blacklisted by the World Bank in 2009 to bid in government projects once more.

DPWH Secretary Regelio Singson did not deny allowing blacklisted companies but emphasizes that World Bank blacklisted the said companies from World Bank projects, not DPWH projects.

In the issue of corruption, Singson affirmed that they are undertaking measures to properly serve the public: proper project selection, ensuring the correct prices and reviewing the quality of projects done.

Meanwhile, groups such as the Coalition against Corruption (CAC) said they appreciate the efforts made by DPWH, especially in terms of transparency.

“Just look at the website of DPWH. You will see all the information about the projects, including itsstatus. You can see the developments and break down per region. They didn’t have that before but now they do”, said Edward Gacusana of CAC.

May 10, 2012